If a picture is worth 1,000 words, then seeing the Port of Galveston’s aging infrastructure firsthand speaks volumes. Last Thursday Galveston City Council and Wharves Board of Trustees members took time out of their busy schedules to tour the port waterfront by boat with port staff.
We got an up-close view of long-neglected waterfront infrastructure and talked about opportunities for repairs and improvements to keep current business and capture new business.
To maximize our assets, we must invest millions of dollars in improvements. We can’t moor ships at crumbing concrete docks or store heavy equipment on piers that can’t sustain the weight. Fortunately, we have a plan.
Galveston Wharves is rolling out a comprehensive 20-Year Strategic Master Plan for what we believe is the first time in its 194-year history. It will give the port a sustainable, unified vision and direction guided by solid data, sound business decisions, and community input and support.
After more than year of research and analysis, the final draft has been completed and is being reviewed by members of the Wharves Board of Trustees. View the final draft in the About Us section of www.PortofGalveston.com.
The comprehensive, 54-page document describes existing port conditions and a range of improvement projects and business scenarios. The plan also includes financial projections, funding opportunities and guidance on implementation.
A condition assessment of 21,000 linear feet of waterfront and upland infrastructure will help the port prioritize and budget for repairs to marine bulkheads and support areas. Some of this infrastructure was built before World War II and has seen little maintenance and repairs.
Until recently, the port hasn’t had the cash reserves to consider long-delayed repairs and improvements. While we’re doing well now, that hasn’t always been the case. Since the city took ownership of the port in 1940, there have been 26 years when the port operated in the red or had razor-thin profits of 1 percent or less.
Seizing the Opportunity
The good news is that the port is in good financial shape now. By focusing on managing expenses and increasing operating revenues, we achieved a record $43.5 million in gross revenues and $8 million in net revenues in 2018, largely from our expanding cruise and lay ship businesses.
Continued growth will allow us to build up and leverage cash reserves to invest in infrastructure and provide a strong platform for future growth.
This Strategic Master Plan comes at a pivotal time in the port’s history. Our revenues are strong, and our infrastructure needs are great. The decisions we make will have long-term impacts on the port and this community.
It will be a long haul. The plan estimates that the total cost of pier work alone is almost $60 million. In all, the plan identifies about $500 million in improvements over 20 years.
Implementing the plan will be a team effort, including the port staff, the port board of trustees, the city, the community, our tenants and our business partners.
Again, I want to thank City Council and Wharves Board members and city and port staffs for their time and support in making the boat tour possible. Special thanks go to T&T Marine Salvage, Inc., for providing boat transportation and the city of Galveston for ground transportation.